Transcript: Rice Football Press Conference
Oct. 31, 2011
Rice Head Coach David Bailiff
Recapping the Houston Game
"It was a tough game for us. Offensively, I was really pleased with the production we had. I thought starting Turner Petersen at quarterback and letting him run the wildcat and throw the football a little bit opened some things for us. Alternating the quarterbacks and trying to play off the strengths of what we could do with different personnel groups we were using. I was thrilled to see Tyler Smith have the type of game he did. I thought our offensive line performed extremely well, opening some holes and holding them to one sack. It was something obviously we can really build on and shows the offense what they are capable of when we do things together.
"Defensively, it was disappointing to give up that many points and that many yards. You look at the landscape of college football and you look at the yards given up. Oklahoma had 700 yards. It's not the old two-back offenses you hit seven to 10 games. It is about isolating people in space and getting one-on-ones and making plays. Offensively, they made them.
"I thought Bryce Callahan did some nice things at cornerback. He has three interceptions on the year and I think he is second in the country as a freshman in PBUs (pass breakups). He continues to get better.
"We still have to get everybody on the same page every snap. We have these smart guys and we have to make that a strength that we are doing everything together. There were still some miscues. There were still some penalties we have to get eliminated. I am responsible, we are all accountable and we have to continue to do things to get this football team better and win our share going into these last four games.
"UTEP is coming in on homecoming. Coach Price has done a nice job after everybody graduating to get those guys going again. The guys that come over today - you know, they are an amazing resilient bunch - they will come over today ready to go to work and do whatever we ask to try to win a football game. I can't say it enough that I do coach the greatest young men in America. They are going to come over here and give it their all. You get into this and you know there are going to be some highs and you know there are going to be some lows. You do it long enough, and you stand on both sidelines. But you do it long enough the one constant is you do it for the young men in it. We will come out fighting next week against UTEP."
Does the success of the running game bode well for the next few games?
"You sure hope so. Turner (Petersen) showed he could really read the different options we have. I think Turner throws the ball effectively. He is an old high school quarterback. While throwing is not his strong point, at least he can do it and get it in the general area it needs to be in. He is working hard, slinging it. You saw how tough he is. He is just an instinctual football player."
Can you take us through the reasoning when it comes to defending against a passing offense such as Houston?
"If you look at the variations of our coverages, when we were in man we had `over the top' where you are in `half man under.' We tried to change it on Case (Keenum) to make it difficult. I think we were in straight zero (man coverage) four calls that game. One was the 47-yard touchdown where Bryce got picked. Every coverage anymore - whether it is in halves or cover three - the way they spread a field, it is going to man at some point. You can be in halves coverage and get twins to the boundary. They are going to take that half coverage deep and they are going to take that rolled up corner deep. That's just why the spread offenses do what they do. The day of the just zone, cover three and cover two, you have a hard time doing that against a spread offense.
"And we want to challenge every throw. We thought if we could challenge every throw and drop some, but they were just on fire that night. When you play those kinds of teams you hope they are having just one of those nights where they are just not as effective catching everything that is up in the air. A lot of times too, take a look at Tanner Leland's coverage, you can not cover some of those throws better than we did. The ball was placed only where that receiver could get it. They are a good football team and that quarterback makes them great. It would be like us having Chase (Clement) back for a sixth year.
"That is just how wise he is now. We have 107 years of defensive experience in that room. We just need to continue to improve and get on our techniques. Staff wise, we just have to get them better. I thought (Scott) Solomon was getting some pretty good pressure then when it rained we had a sack early and they had a sack. I think it hurt our pass rush some and it hurt theirs. We couldn't get to him. And even when we got there, he made us miss."
Eight games in, where do the mistakes come from? You have held some people accountable ...
"We just need to continue holding them accountable. When you get a jump late in the game and it is a junior or senior, those are things that shouldn't be. We need to hold them more accountable. We have to show them how it hurts this football team and its progress. You have to keep working with them and let them know there is a price to pay. We have to work that out."
Do you see those things in practice or does it surprise you?
"It surprises me. We don't do those things. You try to practice at game speed and game tempo. You try to practice with loud music. You try to practice where you are trying to simulate a game. There is no reason for a receiver to jump. They shouldn't even know the snap count. They are looking at the football."
Talking about Tyler Smith's development ...
"What is really amazing about that kid, when he had that catastrophic knee injury, they didn't think he was every going to play football again. He dedicated himself to this team. You look where he is now, each play he seems to get better. Each day he seems to get better. He is one of those young men that comes over every day and he doesn't have a bad day. It doesn't matter if he has just had a biochemistry test, he is going to come over here and it is all about football when he gets here. He doesn't talk a lot. He just comes over here with a big smile and it is all about getting better and trying to get this football team better.
"I applaud him for the game he did have. That was the longest run in school history (97 yards) and the longest run in conference history. To know how he was raised and what he represents, and for him to have his brother have success here. I think Rice football is just extremely important to him."
With the wildcat and what Turner Petersen can do there, where are you at with your quarterback situation with both Nick Fanuzzi and Taylor McHargue playing last week?
"If I had to give an edge to somebody right now it would have to be Nick because he has taken care of the football. At that position you have to take care of the football. We can't have mistakes, especially costly turnovers there."
Rice Sophomore Running Back Turner Petersen
Recapping the Houston game
"Obviously it wasn't quite the end result we were looking for this past week, but I think a few questions coming in were when the run game would step up and make a turn for the better, and I think this game with Tyler Smith and the way we moved the ball on the ground was definitely more effective. People saw some things that hadn't been seen in the weeks prior, so something definitely to grow on from there, and were excited from this point forward on what we can do."
When you say people saw some things they hadn't seen before, are you talking about the performance or some new sets you threw at them?
"I think you can agree with both, actually. I think 170+ yards on the ground and even more in the air, a huge game, is definitely something that hasn't been seen yet out of us. It's what we expected, but it hasn't been brought out. Also the sets we brought out, starting with the wildcat. I don't think they saw that coming, obviously it was effective at the beginning.
In terms of our discussion on your ability to pass in formation, how far do you think you've come in regards to that?
"You know, throwing, I haven't really done so much since I got up here. It's kind of a secondary thing for me, I was more focused on learning the run game and all that, so its been a few years since I've been consistently throwing the ball. I think with a little time and practice and coaching, I can get back into it, but like Coach said it's not one of my strengths right now. I'm very comfortable with the passes they have in for me right now, but I think it could definitely be something I move into, and start throwing the ball more accurately and effectively. But right now it's not the comfortable level we're looking to be at, so I need to improve on that before we open that up, I think."
But your background proves that's something you can handle and adapt to
"I feel so, yeah. I will always say so. There might be others who say otherwise at times, but I'm comfortable with it."
UTEP seems to be a lot better team in El Paso than they are on the road, is this going to give you a chance to get that Rice Stadium mojo back after blowing that game to Tulsa?
"I think we definitely need to get that mojo back. We can't go overlooking the fact that they play better at home than they do away. This is a big game for us, and you know they're going to come out wanting this win just as badly as we do. So right now we're going to have to prepare and get ready for this game more than we've done in weeks prior and attack like we would any other week."
Rice Senior Defensive Lineman Michael Smith
Recapping the Houston game
"Obviously the defensive performance was something that no one wanted nor expected. I think at this point, senior leadership, now more than ever, is what we have to rely on and I think the senior class will come through with that."
What is it going to take to win these next for games?
"Understanding that our goals are still out there for us to achieve. Four more wins and we have that six-win mark, that bowl game mark that we want. You can't give up at this point of the season, you can't let off the gas as far as preparation, in the meeting room or on the field. That's where senior leadership comes into play."
Do you feel like the confidence is still there, as far as achieving those goals you talked about?
"Oh, most definitely. I still feel that the confidence is there. Talking to the guys, its one of those things that you've got to put behind you. Having an older squad on defense, or more seniors on defense, we're able to do that a lot easier now and move on to the next opponent more effectively."
What do you know about UTEP? As a senior you've faced really the same offense, what do you expect out of them on Saturday?
"They're going to play hard. I've had the opportunity to play them twice and each time it's been a battle. You know, (Trevor) Vittatoe isn't there but they're still a very effective offense. I watched them play Southern Miss this past week and I also watched a few clips of the Houston game that they had, and we are going to be in the fight. They're going to fight with you. They're going to give you all you can handle, and you have to be ready for it."
Is their quarterback the kind of quarterback that you have to put the same kind of pressure on as Vittatoe?
"Oh definitely. I think any quarterback in Conference USA you have to put pressure on. One of the things that Conference USA is known for is offenses that put up points, and week in and week out it's a challenge against the quarterback that you're facing."